Is contacting the dead permitted in the Bible?

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Contacting the dead – Old Testament

The Bible forbade the act of contacting the dead through any means (mediums, necromancers, fortune-tellers…etc). The Lord commanded, “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them” (Leviticus 19:31). And He added, “For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 18:12).  He warned His children: “I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people” (Leviticus 20:6).

The Lord abhors demonic powers that are contacted through the mediums and wizards (Deuteronomy 18:11; 2 Kings 21:6; 23:24; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Isaiah  8:19; 19:3). And to save His children from demonic deceptions, He commanded in the Old Testament that wizards, witches and others with “familiar spirits,” that contact the dead, should be put to death (Leviticus 20:27). 

When King Saul disobeyed God’s clear commands and sought the help of the witch of Endor to speak with a presumed spirit of the prophet Samuel, he saw a demonic spirit appearing as God’s prophet. The demon posing as Samuel was able to depress Saul to the point where Saul was no longer able to stand up (1 Samuel 28:20). That demon gave a message of utter hopelessness, typical of evil angels, which led Saul to commit suicide the next day. About Saul’s sin, the Bible said, “He was unfaithful to the Lord, he did not keep the word of the Lord, and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 10:13–14). 

Contacting the dead – New Testament

In the New Testament, Paul warned the believers that demons can actually appear as angels of light to deceive the world, “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). From the beginning Satan has been disguising himself as an angel of light, saint, prophet, or a loved family member to lure people away from God.

What happens to the dead?

The entity that appeared to Saul was not the ghost of Samuel because the Bible clearly teaches that the dead are in a state of unconsciousness till the Resurrection Day and are not aware of anything: “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun…there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10).

The Bible teaches, after death a person: returns to dust (Psalms 104:29), knows nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5), possesses no mental powers (Psalms 146:4), has nothing to do with anything on earth (Ecclesiastes 9:6), does not live (2 Kings 20:1), waits in the grave (Job 17:13), and continues not (Job 14:1, 2). When people die, they enter a state the Bible likens to “sleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14), they remain unconscious till the resurrection.

Paul wrote, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). This will take place “In a moment… at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible…So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).

For more on the state of the dead, check out this article on the Intermediate State.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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